Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Two offers of help

The other day in town I had 2 offers of help.

The first I was about to put my chair into the car. A man approached and asked "Would you like some help?"

Something about his body language and sincerity of expression rang all my alarm bells. In that split second I knew, just knew, that he would be one of those who tried to insist on helping even when it wasn't helpful, and wouldn't listen to my answer.

So I steeled myself for a fight and gave my first line of defence "No thank you. I'm fine thanks" with a confident smile. I could almost feel the more assertive lines queueing up ready for use.

And then...

He smiled back, wished me good day and carried on past without a pause.

It was perfect.

It was unsettling. I must not make snap judgements about people!

The second was in a small shop. A really tiny space. A 3 metre long, 1 metre wide corridor of floor between the door and the till. I had just paid and was leaving. A gentleman entered and was standing by the door.

The door is fabulously light and easy to open. I wish more doors were like that one.

I approached the exit and the gentleman said "Allow me" and opened the door.

"Allow me". Such a charming old fashioned saying! No pity, no assumption of inability, just respect - and as he was standing by the door it made sense to hold it open.

There was only one possible response: "Why thank you!" accompanied by a slight bow and a huge grin.

And there you have it. 2 perfect offers of assistance within an hour. One offered sincerely but listening to and respecting my answer. The other was simple charming politeness, with no connection to my disability.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

To the young lady responsible

To the young lady responsible for the diabetes cards,

I would like to thank you on two counts:

Firstly for asking for these cards - your Mum was really fun to work with and I am glad you like the results.

But secondly, and more importantly: For reassuring me that when people don't listen to me, it isn't my fault.

You may not know this, but when I was chatting to your Mum she said how you were bright and perfectly able to speak up for yourself, but that sometimes you found it difficult because people would assume they knew better, or just not listen.

Well, ME TOO!! Sometimes it's like I can't get people to understand, even though I know what I'm saying is right. I hate it. It makes me feel small inside, and it can be a bit scary when what I'm saying is important and if they do the wrong thing it could hurt me or make me worse. Do you find that people not listening makes you feel less confident about speaking up next time you need to? I do.

So it is very reassuring to find that someone else with a completely different condition finds the same. It isn't because of us, it isn't because of our conditions - it's because people are people. And sometimes people aren't good at listening.

I am really glad that your keyring cards help other people listen to what you have to say, just like mine do for me. I think perhaps the fact that they are written down and look official makes people take what they say seriously. And perhaps the little stickmen make the message happier so it gets into people's brains more easily.

Either way, I hope you are proud of yourself for your part in creating these cards which can help lots of other people like us be heard and to approach life's challenges with confidence.

Thanks again,

Hannah Ensor.

[Note: photo used with kind permission of the young lady's parents.]

[See here for the full range of keyring cards, covering a wide range of topics including diabetes, pain, fatigue, hearing difficulties and autistic spectrum disorders.]

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Can't, Can, and everything in between



A friend posted this image on Facebook.

I love it. It allows for difference, and it allows for achievement.

To achieve the best we can always takes effort, courage and persistence. When it comes to us with disabilities, a little ingenuity and perseverance means we can frequently do more than expected. We may do things differently, we may use customised equipment, but we can still do awesome things.

But we all have our differences and our limitations. Real limitations.

Which makes the 'You can do anything you put mind to' and 'Everyone can achieve their dreams if they want it enough' phrases nonsense.

For example I cannot sing well.

If my dream was to become a professional opera singer, no matter how much I trained, no matter how much I worked and practised, I would at best be the 'scrapings at the bottom of the barrel' when it came to casting. And I would have devoted my life to something in which I had no real prospect of success.

This doesn't mean we see a barrier and assume we can't, but that we consider it and decide whether we go ahead with finding ways round it, or we look around at our options and head of in a new and equally interesting direction.

It was by doing this that I found my new and much loved career in stickmen cartoons. I was an Environmental Health Officer and loved it. I had to medically retire. I looked at ways I could continue in the field around my limitations and I looked around at what I really wanted, and what other options there were. And I found stickmen, and in using my stickman skills while considering Environmental Health options I ended up deciding that actually, stickmen were more fun and more suited to my lifestyle. If I had clung to my dream of being one of the top EHOs in the country I would never have found my stickmen, would have had to make huge sacrifices in every other area of my life, including with my health, and it is doubtful that I would ever have achieved my dream - a lifetime of struggle for very little reward. Instead I found a new dream: an international stickman business which helps break down the barriers of misunderstanding and miscommunication around disabilities.

Admitting 'can't' doesn't mean weakness when it is replaced by things we 'can' do. Nor does it somehow reduce our value to recognise our limits (whether temporary or permanent.)

In life, 'Can't' happens. So what? Let's be too busy with 'Can' to worry about it.




Monday, 3 November 2014

Little things

I love being able to wear snuggly jumpers, and thick slipper socks.

I love warming stews and hot punch.

I love cosy evenings with the candles lit.

And I love how easily amused my 18yr old sister is.....